In art class, we don’t have to teach kids yoga poses, calm breathing, or meditation techniques to help students focus and be more mindful. We already have access to one very special tool: art-making. Teaching students to be aware of their emotions and thoughts on a moment-to-moment basis can seem like a huge undertaking, but you can promote mindfulness easily with a five-minute timer and a set of speakers.
Being mindful is all about being in the present moment and staying there. When was the last time you were allowed to invest all of your focus into one task?
With all of the extra stimuli in today’s world, kids are constantly asked to focus their attention on more than one task at a time.
The act of art-making can keep us in the present moment by capturing our mental and physical attention on a task that is both calming and engaging. But if your art class is like mine, it can be loud, boisterous, and not at all a breeding ground for staying in the present moment.
That is why I started “Five Minute Mindfulness” at the beginning of student work time. Once directions have been given and students have collected their materials, I ring a bell and remind students, “We are about to begin ‘Five Minute Mindfulness.’ Now is the time to turn your voice off and focus your attention on what you are making. After the five minutes you may return to talking with your friends, but let’s take just five minutes to focus on the task at hand. If you find your mind wandering, gently return it to your art.” Then, I quietly turn on a playlist of instrumental music to set the tone for mindful working. (This is my favorite Spotify playlist.) In classes that have a harder time staying focused and silent, I display the Google timer on my white board so they can track the time with me.
To make this successful in the beginning, I had to set ground rules. If students take their focus off of art-making and turn it back to talking, I add an extra minute. This helps remind students this isn’t just time for them to be silent and focused, but it’s time for their classmates to do so as well. Now that the routine is established, “Five Minute Mindfulness” is something most students look forward to and ask for if I forget.
Not all students enjoy “Five Minute Mindfulness,” but these are often students who need the practice of focusing and remaining present the most. If you’re more interested in teaching kids mindfulness in school or beginning a mindfulness practice of your own check out this TED Talk about Mindfulness in Schools or the app Headspace. Remember that mindfulness doesn’t have to be difficult or take up a ton of your time. You can start by focusing your attention here and now.
What other ways do you teach mindfulness in the art room?
What are some things you do in your classroom that promote a mindful space?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.